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Jewish Family Gets $68 Million for 1938 Nazi Store Seizures

The heirs of a Jewish family that owned Schocken AG, a German department-store chain seized by the Nazis, were awarded an extra 50 million euros ($68 million) in compensation by a Berlin court.

The German government, which has already paid about 15 million euros to the family for a building in Chemnitz, must put up the additional amount for the assets, the court ruled. The heirs live in Israel and the U.S., court spokesman Stephan Groscurth said in an e-mailed statement today.

Salman Schocken -- who established the chain with his brother Simon -- also founded in 1931 a publishing house in Germany, which began selling in the U.S. in 1945 under the name Schocken Books. The stores were seized by the Nazis in 1938.

“You find us very happy to finally have the Jewish victims compensated after almost a quarter of a century of legal battles,” said Bernd-Wilhelm Schmitz, the lawyer for the Schocken family. “This hasn’t been a case like any other, moving us very much on a personal level as well.”

Schmitz started to work for the Schocken family in 1990 when he had individual pieces of real estate returned. Under a 1994 law regulating compensation for Nazi victims, Schmitz started to pursue the claim for the lost value of the Schocken department store chain. It took 20 years to reach the court ruling disclosed today.

Ingeburg Gruening, a spokeswoman for the German Finance Ministry, said the government will study the written judgment once it’s available and then decide on whether to petition for the right to appeal the ruling.

Salman Schocken also bought the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 1939, which was led by his son, Gershom, until 1990. Amos Schocken, Haaretz’s current publisher, is also among the heirs.

Today’s case is VG Berlin, VG 4 K 389.12.

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